How To Increase Intrinsic Motivation: Proven Methods That Work In 2021

What does Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and other “greats” have in common? They are all intrinsically motivated to achieve great things. This article will explore what it is and how to increase intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do a project or activity for an internal payoff. These internal payoffs may come in different forms: positive emotions, growth, the thrill of the challenge, etc. When a person has intrinsic motivation, they tend to accomplish long-term goals more often.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is the desire to do something for external payoff. These could be in forms of money, praise, recognition, etc. This kind of motivation is best used when goals are obvious and the task is mechanical. The rewards must also be given sparingly so as to not lose its effect.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations work in motivating yourself and others. It’s not a question of whether they work – it’s a question of when to use them. 

What Causes Intrinsic Motivation?

We know that intrinsic motivation is better for achieving long-term goals more effectively. But the question arises, why are people intrinsically motivated?

We develop intrinsic motivation because it plays a huge role in our survival as human beings.* Survival and procreation aren’t motivated by external rewards, but by internal ones. Beyond this, of course, is the fact that we want to achieve great things. To experience positive emotions.

For example, great entrepreneurs start a business because they want to solve a problem. Sure, they may start it for the money. But businesses that last are passionate about a problem they solve or the market they serve.

Painters paint not because of the possible monetary benefits or recognition. If that were true, Van Gogh wouldn’t have continued painting since he only sold a few paintings while alive. Yet he painted more than 900 paintings despite the fact. It’s the same with artists of any kind, too.

Professionals and employees work hard to be great at what they do. When people are fairly compensated, they do a good job because of its intrinsic value. They want to develop better skills, master their job, have fun, grow, get recognized, and be trusted. And for people employed in a company that aligns with their value, they want to contribute to a purpose bigger than they are.

How Intrinsic Motivation Works

In the book Drive by author Daniel H. Pink, he said that people have an innate drive for autonomy, connectedness, and self-determination. If we arouse that drive, we will start living a more meaningful life and achieve more of our goals.

There are three essential ingredients of intrinsic motivation. Pink said that we need:

  • Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something meaningful
  • Purpose: the desire to contribute on something that’s bigger than us

In an environment that encourages us to have those ingredients, intrinsic motivation arises. Here is his TED Talk on the puzzle of motivation:

How To Increase Intrinsic Motivation

Adults – in whatever field they may be in – develop intrinsic motivation when they finally decide on a path or vision to pursue. In almost a decade I’ve been studying human potentials, I’ve observed this to be true. People may go through life and go with the flow. But once they choose a goal, their life rearranges to make it happen.

Here are some proven methods on arousing and increasing intrinsic methods. I share this with people who ask help especially when they feel lost or confused about what to do in their life.

Define A Personal Vision

A personal vision is how you would like your life to look like in 20 years or more. It’s not just a goal. Rather, it’s a “snapshot” of the big picture of what you imagine life will be like moving forward.

Having a vision (not just a goal) for your life can light the fire of motivation in your belly. The problem is, only a handful of adults will take the time to define what they want to happen in their life. In fact, we spend more time planning our vacations than thinking about our life.

If you want to increase your intrinsic motivation, you need to have a personal vision.

Related Article: Personal Vision – Rediscover Your Direction In Life

Exercise Your Power To Choose

You have the freedom to choose what your vision is. But once you have a vision, it’s time to choose how you’ll accomplish it. There are many paths to choose from to make your future a reality.

One way to know what path you should take when pursuing your dreams is to look for models. Look for people who have achieved what you want and see how they got it. Look at what they did, how they started, how they responded to challenges, and so on.

This is one of the great ironies in life: you have the power to choose what path you’re going to follow. But you must choose. Along with that choice is the fact that you’re going to meet challenges, be pushed to grow, and be on the verge of giving up. Don’t. Stay on your course because that makes all the difference.

Another thing: you choose the meaning you attach to what happens in your past. You’ll see people who keep on repeating the tragedies of their past, choosing to be trapped in it. You’ll see those who choose to accept them, but do nothing about it.

But people who live inspired lives know that struggles are a part of human experience. We all have different burdens to bear, different crosses to carry. Crises happen so we might grow into becoming the best we can be. But only if we choose to.

Work For Mastery

Progress, not perfection, is the goal of life. Without it, we can never enjoy real fulfillment. That’s why you must work for mastery, to continue becoming better at something that matters to you.

In your career, you need to continue improving the way you do things. You may think of ways to do your job faster without sacrificing quality. Then think of problems most people in your company seem to dismiss and solve them. Help people along the way. Find ways to add more value to your company.

If you’re a writer, a painter, a creator, a business owner, or someone who creates art, get better. Then get found! Seek feedback from people whom you create your art for. Then go back and do it again.

This is where the concept of deliberate practice comes into play. We don’t just do things for the sake of doing them. We evaluate our progress and improve something each time. Your improvement doesn’t have to be leaps and bounds. It can’t. It’s unsustainable. Your progress can be small, as long as it’s consistent.

Mastery is one of our innermost needs in life. We need something to do that we’re great at – something we can put our hearts out and pour our best at. Don’t wait for someone to choose you – God won’t come down to tell you “It’s your time to shine.” He’s given you the talents, skills, and desire – you put in the work. And when you do, work for mastery.

Review Your Why

It’s easy to forget why you do the things you do. Remember when you were first employed by your company? Remember your first salary? You can’t contain your joy that you had to share it with someone, anyone! But now, you dread thinking about work and drag yourself out of bed to get there.

Somewhere along the way, you forgot your why. It may be because your boss doesn’t seem to care, the people you work with are assholes, or you just did it for the money. Either way, you need to re-identify and review your purpose.

During the times when I feel lost in life, I know I haven’t reviewed my vision. Because of our busy schedules, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important in our lives. It’s easy to lose sight of why we do our jobs (aside from the money), our progress, and priorities.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” – Viktor Frankl


No one has ever accomplished anything great on their own. You and I must connect with people because we’re social beings. Building relationships is what we’re out here to do!

If you want to increase your intrinsic motivation, connect with people who are motivated. Those who are on the same path as you, who will encourage you, and help you. Stop spending time with people who drain your energy or fill you with toxic positivity. People who speak ill of others on water cooler conversations.

Instead, look for an environment that challenges you to grow. Look for people who will tell you when you’re wrong, correct you, and help you be better. They are the best of friends you’ll ever have in this world.

When you want to achieve greater things in life, it’s better to be intrinsically motivated than look for external rewards. And these are the methods I’ve found effective on how to increase intrinsic motivation. This applies to people in all walks of life, whether you’re a professional, an artist, or an entrepreneur.

If you’re in a position of influence, doing these things can help you arouse the intrinsic motivation of others. Sit down and help them identify their own vision. Give them choices. Encourage them to work for mastery. Review their purpose with them (and how it connects with yours). Connect them with people who can help.

We are leaders for a reason – and it’s to lead people who trust us to become better.

Live an inspired life,

Jeric Timbang